Review | NERF Legends
Reviewed on Series X
Did you know that the iconic NERF toy guns recently received a licensed multiplayer arena shooter, with even a single-player campaign to boot? Probably not, frankly, as marketing for this title seemed nigh non-existent. We were keeping an eye on it, however, and now that it’s here, let’s find out if it’s… Nerf or Nothin’!
A familiar turf for… NERF
What distinguishes NERF plastic guns from other toys is how distinguishable and iconic some of its models became throughout the years. Every toymaker has made water guns or something weapon-shaped, but none come anywhere near the fame and fortune of NERF guns. It is therefore unsurprising that a huge selection of years of classics find their place in this arena shooter, such as the Ultra Two or the Elite Delta Trooper, as the game offers pistols, assault rifles, grenade launchers, and even melee weapons.
The game’s style seems to attempt to find a comfortable middle ground between arena shooters of old such as Unreal Tournament or Quake 3 Arena, with movements and visuals closer to the cartoonish class-based shooters of our age, such as Overwatch or Paladins. Players don’t get different classes or roles, only a custom character with customizable looks and gender, which then gets to unlock and use a wide array of weapons from the NERF toyline. Loadouts of said weapons make a difference, which then are combined with the health power-ups and such that can be found on the game’s maps. If you played any classic arena shooter, Halo included, you pretty much know what to expect.
You have my weapon
Multiplayer arenas also seem to be more inspired by the arena shooters of two decades ago and beyond, featuring fairly symmetrical designs with interconnected hallways and meeting points, even on multiple levels of altitude. To traverse more quickly, launch pads can also be found, giving the players the chance for a quick escape or a rapid offense, with other more trendy traversal options like air dodges or grapple hooks not found in the game.
Unfortunately, the vast variety of weapons is something only the dedicated players will truly ever experience, as pretty much all of them are locked to loadout options available only after many hours of gameplay. This means that, during the decisive first rounds in which all players will decide whether to stick with NERF Legends as their multiplayer fix, the game’s effective variety and scope will appear far more limited than intended.
Not a splash
That is of course assuming you ever find players to play against. I’ve been trying on and off since launch, and even within 24 hours of launch, I was unable to find a single match to play. I wouldn’t know how much of it is due to the undoubtedly low player numbers and how much is it the matchmaking failing, but playing this game online has been virtually impossible for me. I had to set my own consoles at home to play together with someone, just to grasp some of the game mechanics. The game can not even be played against bots as of this writing, so I’ve never actually seen what this game plays like in multiplayer against more than one enemy at the same time.
There are certainly a few reasons for this lack of interest in the game. First of all, an almost complete lack or marketing. Despite receiving media press releases and consuming gaming media on a daily basis, I’ve only ever been exposed to new material about this game around twice in the lead-up to launch, and social metrics for this game have been non-existent in my experience. Can’t really have an active player base at launch if nobody is even aware of the game coming out. Another key factor is of course the launch price, starting at a whopping 49,99 Euros, 49.99 USD, or 39.99 British Pounds, with a minor pre-order discount to mitigate the costs. In an era where even certain free-to-play titles fail to convince the market, such an entry point seems to be a debilitating barrier for players to overcome. And, of course, the biggest problem of ’em all: the game just isn’t good at all.
On paper, NERF Legends may offer a classic old-school arena shooter that should satisfy the players like me, who spent a sizeable chunk of their youth on titles like Unreal Tournament or Quake 3 Arena. But in truth, the actual gameplay is just poor. The shooting is stiff, the movements feel floaty, aiming feels slow and clunky even on the higher sensitivity settings, and there’s no real way to mitigate any of these issues with further options, as not even FOV and the likes can be changed. And while the game certainly isn’t a looker, neither technically nor in terms of style, even the Series X version fails to have an adequately high and stable framerate, making the shooting feel even less satisfying.
There’s various classic game modes and a decent selection of basic maps, albeit hindered by a lot of invisible walls when trying to traverse them via the launch pads. These at least show a glimpse of the game’s potential, when players grab power weapons and run around causing havoc, but the already mentioned progression system gates so much of the game’s possibilities. When it’s impossible to find multiplayer matches and the base gameplay is rather poor, it’s hard to imagine many will bother unlocking advanced weaponry by grinding NERF Legends with friends.
Solo shot first
Maybe the single-player can save the day? Not really, no. It’s a surprisingly high amount of excessively long levels, putting players in uninspired arenas as they hunt switches, perform basic platforming, and battle braindead cannon fodder AI foes of varying types. It never seems to truly make a true jump in quality, and its tedious nature becomes apparent long before the end credits. And of course, this mode also features the multiplayer’s poor shooting, questionable framerate, and rather boring level design, and is arguably even less exciting than the competitive suite. With multiplayer being virtually unavailable, most buyers will be stuck with the far less fun single-player mode. The marketing of this game seemed odd, as initial reveals seemed to want to place this game as a multiplayer title, with even the Xbox storefront heavily implying that’s the focus, while the current Steam page seems to imply this as a mainly single-player game. Whatever the focus was, the game’s limited appeal ends at the multiplayer.
On a technical level, the game offers uneven performance despite very basic graphics, with generic futuristic technology and architecture featuring washed-out textures and plenty of jaggies, as the game runs on a rather low resolution even on Xbox Series X, where we tested it. With everything feeling so cheap and unpolished, one would perhaps expect stable 60 frames per second and perhaps even 120hz support, but the title fails to support the latter or reliably hit the former. Perhaps this will become one of those games that will automatically perform better on future Xbox consoles, but these graphics have no business running this poorly. Surprisingly enough though, the campaign features fully voiced characters – not something I expected, given the rest of the game.
Nerfed into oblivion
Just about everything about the release of this game baffles me. With even Electronic Arts’ paid title Knockout City or Ubisoft’s battle royale or Hyper Scape, it’s clear that without the proper marketing, launch plan, or word of mouth, multiplayer titles have a hard time breaking into a scene where games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch and so on monopolize players’ time. In this context, NERF Legends would suffer immensely with the high launch price and the lack of marketing even if it were great. But it isn’t; it’s a completely unoriginal arena shooter with subpar shooting mechanics, uninspired visuals, insufficient performance, a multiplayer player base that was already virtually dead on launch week, and a painfully monotonous single-player campaign that almost feels like an extended tutorial. There is potential in an arena shooter using NERF guns, but this game doesn’t get anywhere near to living up to that concept, and the ludicrous launch price makes NERF Legends frankly unmarketable in this state. Setting the release date inbetween the latest installments in the Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo franchises is really just the icing on the cake of this poor launch, one we can only recommend staying away from right now.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4|5, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC|
|Release Date||November 19th, 2021|
NERF Legends49,99 EUR | 49.99 USD | 39.99 GBP
- An arena shooter with NERF guns is a fantastic idea
- Solid amount of content at launch
- Terrible shooting
- Poor graphics and artstyle with uneven performance
- Ludicrous launch price
- Multiplayer is literally dead since launch and no bots to compensate
- Incredibly tedious single player